London, October 9, 1858
Sir, -- In reply to your letter, I have to observe that
you must be perfectly conscious that the difficulty in the way of engaging in a
chess-match is one over which I have no control. You were distinctly appraised,
in answer to the extraordinary proposal of your friends that I should leave my
home, family and avocations, to proceed to New Orleans for the purpose of
playing chess with you, that a long and arduous contest, even in London, would
be an undertaking too formidable for me to embark in without ample opportunity
for the recovery of my old strength in play, together with such arrangements as
would prevent the sacrifice of my professional engagements. Upon your unexpected
arrival here, the same thing was repeated to you, and my acceptance of your
challenge was entirely conditional on my being able to gain time for practice.
The experience, however, of some weeks, during which I
have labored unceasingly, to the serious injury of my health, shows that not
only is it impracticable for me to save time for that purpose, but that by no
means short of giving up a great work on which I am engaged, subjecting the
publishers to the loss of thousands, and myself to an action for breach of
contract, could I obtain time even for the match itself. Such a sacrifice is, of
course, out of all question.
A match at chess or cricket may be a good thing in its
way, but none but a madman would for either forfeit his engagements and imperil
his professional reputation. Under these circumstances, I waited only the
termination of your last struggle with Mr. Harrwitz, to explain that, fettered
as I am at this moment, it is impossible for me to undertake any enterprise
which would have the effect of withdrawing me from duties I am pledged to fulfil.
The result is not, perhaps, what either you or I
desired, as it will occasion disappointment to many; but it is unavoidable, and
the less to be regretted, since a contest, wherein one of the combatants must
fight under disadvantages so manifest as those I should have to contend against,
after many years retirement from practical chess, with my attention absorbed and
my brain overtaxed by more important pursuits, could never be accounted a fair
trial of skill.
I have the honor to be,
Yours, &c. H. Staunton
Paul Morphy, Esq.
P.S. I may add that, although denied the satisfaction
of a set encounter with you at this period, I shall have much pleasure, if you
will again become my guest, in playing you a few games sans fašon.